Life Sentence (The CW) pilot preview: Pretty Little Cutie Pies

Written and produced by Erin Cardillo & Rich Keith (Significant Mother, Fuller House). Executive produced by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town, Undateable) & Jeff Ingold (Ground Floor, Undateable). Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (Riverdale, Beyond, Adaline, Celeste & Jesse Forever). 61 pages. Network Draft Revised 01/11/2017. For Warner Bros. Television & Doozer Entertainment.

Description: When Stella, a young woman diagnosed with terminal cancer finds out that she’s not dying after all, she has to learn to live with the choices she made when she decided to “live like she was dying.” She then discover her family has been lying to her for the past ten years so she doesn’t worry. Now, she has every reason to worry…

With Lucy Hale (Pretty Little Liars, Privileged), Jayson Blair (Whiplash, Young & Hungy, The New Normal), Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck, Unforgettable), Gillian Vigman (New Girl, Suburgatory), Brooke Lyons (The Affair, iZombie, 2 Broke Girls), Elliot Knight (American Gothic, Sinbad, Once Upon a Time)…

   

You’ll like it if you already like: Jane The Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Life Unexpected…

First there was Jane The Virgin. Then came Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Now there’s No Tomorrow (which doesn’t have much of a future ironically). Despite underwhelming ratings -but rave reviews and rare prizes for the network- those hour-long dramedies are very much alive, as if The CW wanted to apologize for all their superhero shows -there will be 5 next year if Black Lightning is ordered to series!- by balancing them with lighter fares targeting millenial women. Before reading the script, I expected Life Sentence to be yet another romantic comedy with charming and colorful leads. It turned out the leads are charming and sometimes colorful but it is not that romantic. Though it can be. There are clichés about Paris and Amsterdam after all. But it’s mostly about a quirky, messy, relatable, instantly appealing family from Portland that we could enjoy spending a few years with.

First of all, let me introduce you to all of them. Stella, our heroine and narrator, is a 25 year-old decisive, strong woman, with a wry, sometimes morbid, sense of humor. She’s a cutie pie. I’m not a Pretty Little Liars fan but I feel like casting Lucy Hale in the starring role is the best thing that could have happenned to the project. She’s certainly capable and she does have fans that will sample the show. Wes is Stella’s husband, a cool guy’s guy. Paul is Stella’s father, a solid rock who rarely shows his feelings. Ida is Stella’s mother, a kind and emotional 55 year-old woman who owns a cheese shop called… Brie Yourself. Elizabeth is Stella’s older sister, an aspiring writer with a family of her own to take care of. Aiden is Stella’s older brother, an immature womanizer who still lives with his parents at 28. There’s also Dr Helena Chang, Stella’s awkward oncologist and the closest she has to a best friend; and Poppy, Ida’s best friend who has become an aunt for Stella and her brother and sister. We get to meet all of them through the pilot and have a pretty good idea of who they are… or more precisely: who they want Stella to believe they are and who they really are. And it’s already a hell of a ride! And they’re never irritating, which is kind of a miracle.

Life Sentence is funny. But discreetly. Without a red light warning sign saying “Be ready, we’re gonna be funny in 3,2,1…”. It’s funny because the characters are -and hopefully the actors too- because the dialogues are sharp and smart, and probably because the writers and the producers wrote for comedies before. It shows. It’s touching without being cheesy, especially thanks to the heroine’s voice-over that could be compared to the narrator’s in Jane The Virgin, though she’s not breaking the fourth wall. And it has potential to go on for years. As long as the characters are good, and I don’t want to repeat myself but they are, everything’s gonna be fine. You want to know their secrets? Here’s one [SPOILER ALERT!]: Ida wants to divorce Paul for years. And you know why? Because she doesn’t love him anymore, yes. But mostly because she’s in love with a woman. And this woman is… Poppy! It is this type of show. The situations can be far-fetched, there’s too much going on, but the emotions feel real.

Life Sentence is a delightful, funny, soapy, certainly not preachy, breath of fresh air, that may not be as inventive as Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are, but there’s a lot to like in there, especially for those who want more family dramedies on TV. Can it be a huge success for The CW? Probably not. Can it win awards? I doubt it. Can it charm the hell out of the audience? Oh yeah, it will!

8 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Disappointing. I predict failure.

    Other than Hale, who seems like she could shine in something good, this sounds like it will be a lukewarm show at best, populated with actors and actresses who are known for movies that have been popular with the lowest-common-denominator crowd. It will be to something like “Gilmore Girls” or “Parenthood” what “Scorpion” is to something like “The Americans;” not even in the same league. Other than a steady paycheck, a waste of some of Hale’s best years to potentially break out, à la Emma Watson.

  2. ... says:

    I don’t know, I can’t see anything relating to terminal illness be successful on broadcast television, even if we’re talking The CW. Red Band Society bombed, The Big C was dragged to four seasons because of awards and Laura Linney, and Chasing Life limped to two seasons. Even if the tone is lighter and the show has a sense of humor, there’s still the lingering threat of remission and it’s very tough to make cancer funny while respecting the journey and not alienating your audience.

    If they want a funny, emotional dramedy about living your life to the fullest and achieving your dreams and whatnot, just stick with No Tomorrow.

    • Lulla says:

      Well in fact, once the first scenes are done, the heroine is no longer ill and the subject of the terminal illness is kind of gone. It’s more about reconstruction.

      • Vince says:

        There’s a movie like this in my country well without the lesbian stuff. She wasn’t dying. The twist was that her records were switched with another person/patient. It was her childhood friend and love interest. It was a comedy but a melodrama as well. It did okay and was critically acclaimed.

  3. Vince says:

    Wait so her mother had three kids until she realize she was lesbian?
    If this was on a more conservative country maybe I’d buy that. But at this day and age? Like really?

    • Lulla says:

      Well, the mother is 55. She had her children 25-30 years ago. I don’t think it was that easy to assume at the time. Plus, sometimes you realize those things late in your life. plus, in the pilot at least, she doesn’t define herself as a lesbian. Not yet…

    • TheFirst says:

      Or maybe she’s bisexual and was actually in love with her husband, but now she’s not anymore. And now she just happened to fall in love with a woman.

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